Immigrant students safe for another year
February 29, 2008
The 17-year-old junior at Park City High School says she hopes state lawmakers will not eliminate a program that allows in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in Utah.
"When you are little you don’t have a choice whether you want to come here. I was seven and you are not getting asked if you want to come here," Eneidi Lucero explained. "Your parents are taking you. For me, that’s one thing that pushed me even more to get a higher education, because that is not something that I want the rest of my family to go through."
Lucero hiked for days near the Arizona border to enter the United States illegally with her parents several years ago.
Illegal immigrants who graduate after attending at least three years of high school in Utah can qualify for in-state tuition residents receive at state universities.
"Now they’re trying to take away the opportunity for people to go to college. What are they trying to do?" Lucero said in an interview Friday.
But a bill that would have denied the lower tuition for undocumented students stalled this week in the state Senate and is not poised to pass in the legislative general session.
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"I am very happy," said Kamas dairyman David Ure, a retired representative who sponsored the in-state tuition legislation several years ago.
Anna Williams, who teaches English as a second language at Park City High School, criticized Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, for sponsoring the tuition repeal.
"Shame on them," Williams said. "This is a moral issue. Why would we want to take education from our children?"
Fifteen-year-old Janeth Sanchez, of Park City, says her parents could not afford to send her to college if the in-state tuition is repealed.
"I dream about it," said Sanchez, who moved to Park City from Mexico nine years ago. "We want to go to college, but we would have to pay three times what other students would pay."
Park City sophomore Luis Rodriguez said he also could not afford college if the law changes.
"Some of us didn’t have a choice to come and it really just isn’t fair," Rodriguez said.
Lawmakers should realize that decisions on Capitol Hill greatly impact immigrant families, said Marela Pereda, a senior at Park City High School.
"We want to study, and we wouldn’t have the privilege or the money to go to college," Pereda said about lawmakers revoking the in-state tuition. "It’s affecting the families because the sophomores maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to college."
Her parents couldn’t afford to go to college in Mexico, Pereda explained.
"They would be stressed and sad if I do not go to college because they want me to be someone," she said.
Lucero said her parents risked their lives bringing her to the United States.
"To them it would seem like a waste," Lucero said about the possibility of her not attending college.
The dropout rate for immigrants would increase if lawmakers repeal the in-state tuition, she explained.
Most schools in her native Mexico cram two grades into one small classroom, she said.
"In our country, we cannot get the better education that we get here," Lucero said. "We’re here because we can get a better life here. I went back to my elementary school and I think they still only have four classrooms. That is it."
But Donnelson claimed the in-state tuition encourages people to break the law by entering the United States illegally.
"We can’t continue to encourage them to break the law," Donnelson.